Gardening with succulents

callistemonYou develop an image of yourself as a gardener. One who tries her best to live up to the Right Plant Right Place philosophy.

Plants thrive when they are the right ones for the garden conditions and the climate.

It’s why I am never interested in reading or watching a story about someone who insists on creating a tropical garden in the north of England. It’s just wrong.  Like the tedious job of wrapping up bananas or Dicksonian antarctica tree ferns over cold winters and having to look at that absurd structure all winter.

But we are all guilty of trying to push the boundaries of what is possible because we are so in thrall to certain plants.  My roses stand sentinel in the courtyard begging to have a better life in damp and mild England, but they are forced to tough it out on our French mountain top.

I also castigate myself for yearning for Australian native plants in this mountain Mediterranean setting.  The Mediterranean bit works. But not the freezing winters.semps in trough

And you will be spared the shots of the eucalyptus trees I grew from seed, managed to get to a good few feet in height; planted them out in the hedge and felt very, very guilty when the cold killed them this winter.

Bad. Bad gardener.  Dad thinks I should try planting Tasmanian Snow Gums. And I’ll give those a go when I can track down the seeds. But I’m still chastened from my murderous experience with the current eucalypts.

redsempdetailDiana, a friend who lives near Andrew further south in the Ardèche, is mad keen on Australian and New Zealand native flora.

And she has much more success in her beautiful garden. On a rainy day (hah) I’ll unearth the photos I took when we visited last year and with her permission, post them.

She gave me a little callistemon (bottle brush) cutting and I have nurtured and nursed it all year.

But I feel like a zoo keeper. It is probably never going to be allowed to leave the confines of the potting shed.   It has grown beautifully and may even flower this year. That will be worth opening a bottle of something refreshing to celebrate. But it not the right plant for here.  I took this photo just as I was getting ready to move it up a size in a pot. It should be in the garden, but I don’t dare.

I have killed my anigoxanthos (kangaroo paws), I have massacred eucalypts. I am chastened.  So as punishment for this wanton thoughtlessness, I have sempervivums – house leek – in all the spots where my more wanted plants would grow for a season and then die.

The granite trough is actually the original sink that was in our living room when we first moved in.  It weighs about 100kgs and sits just at the end of the courtyard as no one can lift it anywhere else.  I used up all my begging brownie points just asking the builders to heave it to this spot. And that was with a mini digger doing the heavy lifting.

Nothing survives in the shallow, hostile environment but sempervivums.

I have no passion for semps.  They do a sterling job of being drought tolerant, and tough as can be. And they even like living in this ornamental fountain that is attached the guest house wall in the courtyard.   I think I stuck them in here when the photographer came to ‘do’ the garden and then promptly forgot about them as I went about the zillion other chores that make up a huge garden and farm.

And the little plants just thrived. No watering, no attention, just looking decorative and earning their place.  So they will stay.  And I will probably build up more plants over time.  At least I won’t feel like a murderer when I do.

1semps in fountain